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Killer-Dog Owners: Throw the Book At Them!

January 25, 2002

Marjorie Knoller and her husband Robert Noel took in two dogs that the previous owner said were too vicious to control.  The San Francisco couple knew the 125- and 110-pound dogs had been raised by an attack-dog breeding operation.

The couple also knew that residents in the building were terrified of the dogs.  Residents actually called the police 40 times to complain about the two animals.  Ten people had violent encounters with the dogs.

The two dogs, not wearing muzzles, then attacked a neighbor, Diane Whipple, mauling her to death in the corridor outside her apartment.  "She was naked and bleeding to death, trying to crawl into her apartment, when the police arrived."  The death scene was so gruesome that police who arrived on the scene were later given trauma counseling.

Killer-Dog Owners: The Criminal Charges

The couple have each been charged with involuntary manslaughter.  Knoller, who was walking the dogs at the time of the attack, was also charged with second degree murder.

Some people think the charges are too harsh.  What?!  If anything, the charges are too light. Knoller only faces a maximum of 15 years, while the harshest punishment Noel faces is a mere 4 years.

Involuntary manslaughter requires a showing of reckless indifference to human life.  The second-degree murder charge requires a showing of "implied malice," in other words did Knoll act in "total disregard for human life."

I would certainly say so.  In correspondence with the owner of the dog-breeding operation, Noel seemed to delight in the way the dogs, Bane and Hera, terrorized their neighbors.

Killer-dogs are like living time bombs.

"The legal issue is whether jurors will say that the defendants were taking an extreme risk, kind of like playing with hand grenades," said Loyola University law professor Laurie Levenson.

Another good analogy I heard was that the couple were, in effect, rolling hand grenades with loose, hair-trigger pins down the street every day.  It wasn't a question of "if," but "when" a tragedy would occur.

Killer-Dog Owners: The Results

Hopefully a conviction and a harsh penalty here will discourage others from owning such killer animals, or even breeding them.  In fact, the breeding itself of fighting dogs should be made illegal.

These animals are made vicious by being horribly mistreated during their "training" period, so from an animal rights perspective, an end to a market for such animals would avoid much animal abuse.

There have been other criminal prosecutions for attacks by killer-dogs, but few have garnered such a level of national publicity.  Unfortunately, it often takes a well-publicized tragedy to convince society to take appropriate preventative measures, and hopefully that will be the case here, so Diane Whipple will not have died a horrible death totally in vain.

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

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